Oppenheimer Review featured

‘Oppenheimer’ – Extraordinary, riveting, explosive

(Disclaimer: I will purely be reviewing this movie based on its digestible entertainment value and am unable to comment on any inaccuracies that may exist.)

I’m not a history buff and biopic films aren’t really my thing – the last one I watched was probably Ford v. Ferrari (2019).

But when the whole world was taking an interest in the biopic directed about the father of the atomic bomb, I couldn’t help but notice.

Oppenheimer (2023) is directed by leading filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who is well known for his complex, epic movies like The Dark Knight (2008), Inception (2010), and Interstellar (2014).

Oppenheimer Review - Cillian Murphy
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

For me, I was more interested in Cillian Murphy, the actor who plays J. Robert Oppenheimer.

He is known for starring in the Peaky Blinders (2013-2022) TV series as Tommy Shelby, a calm and ruthless character with too many flaws to count.

Even though I knew hardly anything about the development of the atomic bomb, I knew I had to check this epic biographical film out.

Plot: A man’s life, condensed in three hours

Oppenheimer Review - Bomb in the Air
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

When I went to purchase the tickets for Oppenheimer, I was taken aback by the duration listed – the movie is 3 hours long.

I was a little apprehensive when I sat down in my seat. Could a movie really capture my attention for a full 3 hours straight?

The answer is, perhaps unsurprisingly, yes.

Although Oppenheimer is a seriously long film, each scene goes by very quickly. It’s a fast-paced film that doesn’t linger and doesn’t let you sit in your seat waiting for the movie to be over.

After all, the film isn’t just a simple movie, it is essentially a summary of a man’s life. A man who you can hardly deny as being far from ordinary.

The story in the film Oppenheimer can be split into three acts:

  1. The life of Oppenheimer as a promising, brilliant young academic with some rather controversial friends.
  2. The development of the atomic bomb, from the recruitment of scientists to the testing of the weapon.
  3. The life of Oppenheimer after the dropping of the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Oppenheimer Review - A Push of a Button
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

Yet the film doesn’t tell the story in a chronological order. As the story of Oppenheimer unfolds, it is intertwined with scenes of interrogation.

I’ll admit, with how quick the movie goes and my general difficulty in remembering names, it can be difficult to keep up with which character is being referred to.

But you don’t need to remember all the names to get the story, especially since not everyone is necessarily important to the plot – just like real life, people come and go in the life of Oppenheimer.

At the same time, I recently chanced upon a scathing online review of the movie.

The person who left it labelled the Oppenheimer film as Christopher Nolan’s ‘weakest film yet’. He mentioned that the story was not complex like his other films, and that any 5-star reviews were definitely from bots.

To that, I’ll say – a story does not have to be overly complex, and perhaps life is simpler than fiction at times.

Acting: A star-studded cast chosen for skill rather than name

Oppenheimer Review - Robert Downey Jr
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

A lot of the times with feature movies, you often get a lot of films where they just pick an actor or actress just because they’re trending now.

At first glance, you might not realise that Oppenheimer has many big names attached to it, because most promotional images show Cillian Murphy alone.

While Cillian Murphy is a talented, well-known actor, you might be more familiar with the names of Matt Damon (The Martian, 2015), Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, 2018), and Robert Downey Jr. (Ironman, 2008).

Oppenheimer Review - Emily Blunt
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

You can tell that every single performer in this movie is carefully selected for their acting chops.

The Oppenheimer film is serious and oftentimes dark. It’s a film that everyone has to give their all, or else the film would fall flat and the immersion of this true, larger than life story would be broken.

Although seeing a famous face here and there does occasionally break you out of it, the way each performer delivers their lines makes you quickly believe that they are who they’re playing.

I must of course, praise Cillian Murphy for his captivating performance as Oppenheimer.

Oppenheimer Review - Stressed Oppenheimer
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

Every time he’s on the screen, it’s like he is a magnet pulling your attention and you can’t look away.

He easily nails the early knowledge-hungry Oppenheimer, the middle passionate Oppenheimer who realises he’s in way over his head, and the older, tense, and reserved Oppenheimer.

Another impressive detail is that Cillian Murphy is an Irishman known for playing a Birmingham man and now taking up the lead American role in a biopic.

To be fair, I can’t confirm how authentic he sounds, but he certainly didn’t sound Irish.

Visuals: Cinematic, sometimes poetic

Oppenheimer Review - Jean Tatlock
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

Though not among the most artistic-looking movies to come out this year, Oppenheimer does well within its subject matter.

It seems like it would be difficult to experiment with visuals with such a serious subject matter of a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb.

Yet the film works cleverly to portray Oppenheimer’s feelings clearly.

Instead of just relying purely on Cillian Murphy’s acting, there are shots which serve to amplify and describe Oppenheimer’s feelings.

For example, there’s a scene where Oppenheimer is feeling overwhelmed despite the supposed good news he’s delivering.

The whole crowd is out of focus, the audio is muffled or silent, and he starts seeing sadness and death in his audience who keep on cheering quietly.

Oppenheimer Review - Big Explosion
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

In many scenes, the description of atoms, physics, and even the bomb are done through particles dancing across the screen – showing that despite their destructive powers, there is an elegance to them.

The movie does have some censorship in Malaysian cinemas, mainly the steamy scenes between Oppenheimer and his lover, Jean Tatlock.

I do want to say that the censorship methods used makes the experience awkward and jarring, but thankfully the scenes only last a blip in this huge biopic.

Soundtrack: You’ll be on the edge of your seat

Oppenheimer Review - Particles
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

The soundtrack of Oppenheimer befits the movie perfectly, being akin to any epic Christopher Nolan movie.

There are so many scenes where the soundtrack plays a big part in building tension. At the same time, there are many scenes where it’s eerily quiet to make a statement.

Each track in this film is unbelievably haunting; take the theme Oppenheimer, for example.

It seems to start off magically; almost like you’re in wonder and searching for something.

Then, as the score continues, it gets progressively unsettling. As if you’re slowly realizing the truth and are gradually spiraling out of control.

Oppenheimer Review - Breaking Down
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

It continues building, and building, and building, and then… It ends. Silence.

There’s no release of tension at the end. It keeps amping up, more and more, piling up and piling up… Kind of like a bomb going off.

Perhaps if you listened to the Oppenheimer soundtrack, you might even mistake it for that of a horror movie.

In fact, that’s what composer Ludwig Göransson took inspiration from, by taking horror clusters and transforming them into a beautiful melodic vibrato.

His goal was to show that Oppenheimer, despite being a genius, was plagued with unease and his own demons in his closet – in my opinion, I think he conveyed that idea perfectly.

Memang conclusion: A film that needs to be checked out

Oppenheimer Review - Paparazzi
Photo: Oppenheimer (2023)

📖 Plot4.5 out of 5.0 stars

🎭 Acting5.0 out of 5.0 stars

🎥 Visuals4.5 out of 5.0 stars

🎵 Soundtrack5.0 out of 5.0 stars

🍿 Memang score 4.8 out of 5.0 stars

Oppenheimer is a complex film that reflects the enormous subject matter that it tries to tackle.

Though I cannot comment on whether Oppenheimer successfully adapted, well, Oppenheimer, I’ll say that the grandiose scale of this film alone warrants at least one viewing.

I understand the film is three hours long, which can be quite tiring for most (I, myself, did check my phone for the time at the two-hour mark).

However, I believe that Oppenheimer is still best viewed in a single sitting. If this movie had been split into ‘Part 1’ and ‘Part 2’, likely a lot of the audience would not watch the continuation.

I don’t mean to say that this film is boring – just that the subject matter might be tough to get people to come back to watch another part.

Essentially, Oppenheimer is a mature and mesmerising piece of work that should be experienced if you get the chance.

This isn’t a film to watch to kill time or for lighthearted fun.

This is one film that you experience…

For the experience.

Featured image: Universal Pictures

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